Few trips are as magical for a family with young kids as a trip to Disney World. We were lucky to go last year with our boys and they absolutely loved it. And much to our surprise, we really enjoyed ourselves as well. I spent a lot of time planning our trip months in advance. This was necessary since we were traveling over spring break. I also planned this trip before I started using credit card sign-up bonuses, so we were not using miles for any part of the trip.
Airfare: We wanted to take a direct flight to Orlando because we didn’t want to worry about how the boys would handle a layover. This left us only 2 airlines we could fly – Delta or Southwest. Southwest was much less expensive. In order to get the lowest fare, we had to book the tickets on the day Southwest opened up the schedule. For those not familiar with Southwest’s ticketing, they open up blocks of days. I needed to figure out when they were opening up the block of time for our trip. You can find when the schedule will open up in the Travel Tools section of the site. I searched right when the dates opened up and got our tickets at the lowest fare. I checked back later in the day to see if the lowest fares were still available and they were already all gone.
Lodging: My parents own a timeshare in Kissimmee. So we were lucky to stay for the entire week for only about $200. We actually liked staying off property because it allowed us to escape all the stimulation from Disney.
Car: As I said in a previous post, I like to use Priceline for car rentals and hotel stays. I used Priceline for the rental car. We had a full-sized car for only about $200 for the week.
Tickets: We bought our tickets through Undercover Tourist. Touring Plans and Mouse for Less have a ticket calculator that will help you figure out where you should buy your tickets. We used the Mouse for Less calculator and it pointed us to Undercover Tourist. Generally buying your tickets directly from Disney (unless part of a package) is not the best deal. Disney does not include sales tax of 6.5% in the prices it quotes on their web site. So make sure you take that into account so you can do an apples to apples comparison with other sites.
There are so many resources to help you plan a trip to Disney. You can talk with a Disney travel agent, a regular travel agent, friends, books, web sites, and others. It can be overwhelming. My favorite web sites for planning the days at the parks:
- Tour Guide Mike – Access to the site costs $21.95 (the amount of you have access is based on when your trip is). I highly suggest getting a subscription to this site if you’re planning a trip to Disney. I found it to be the most useful site of all I looked at. The crowd calendar was the best one that I’ve seen. For every day of the year, he gives a crowd rating for each park for the morning and afternoon. And he explains why he is giving the rating. For example, maybe there’s a special event at the park that is going to draw bigger crowds that day. Tour Guide Mike also explains how to tour the parks. He has some touring plans, but more importantly he explains why you want to tour the way you do, so you don’t have to follow any plan to a T. As I explained above, we went to Disney over Spring Break. We followed Mike’s advice and didn’t wait more than 15 minutes in any line! Best tip from Mike – get to the parks at the opening. It is the best way to cut down on your ride wait times.
- Touring Plans - Access to the site costs $10.95 for 365 days (less if you own the Unofficial Guide book). This site is by the people who write the Unofficial Guide books for Disney. They have sample touring plans for each of the parks. The plans suggest which rides you should go on and when based on the ages of the people in your group. They have a crowd calendar for each park for every day of the year. And they have phone apps that let you know how long the lines are for each ride.
- Mouse Savers – This site is a wealth of knowledge. You could spend days reading through all the tips that they have gathered.
Best tip I received from a friend: Ride the tram for nap time – it’s air conditioned and runs in a circle so you can ride it as long as you need to.
There’s so much more that I could write about Disney. I’m sure I’ll cover more in future posts. I hope that this gets you going for your research on how you want to plan your trip.